OUT: Jeff Gardner of Windstream.

Windstream, the telecommunications company based in Little Rock that was spun off from the former Alltel, announced a change in leadership this afternoon. Tony Thomas will replace Jeff Gardner as CEO.

The company’sIrelease:


Windstream Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN) today announced that Tony Thomas has been appointed president and chief executive officer and a director of Windstream, effective immediately. Thomas succeeds Jeff Gardner, the company’s current president and CEO, who will stay on as senior adviser to the CEO and as a member of the Board of Directors through Feb. 1, 2015, to ensure an orderly transition. Thomas has principally served as Windstream’s chief financial officer over the past eight years and most recently as the company’s president of real estate investment trust (REIT) operations.

“I am proud to have led Windstream from its creation in 2006. It has been a privilege to work with our Board, leadership team and talented associates across the organization,” said Jeff Gardner. “The Board and I agree that a change in perspective is needed in order to accelerate the pace of change within the company and to more effectively respond to the rapidly evolving needs of our customers. The Board’s confidence in Tony is well placed. His leadership and strong financial acumen will benefit investors and customers as he leads Windstream in the future.”

More on the jump.

Jeff Hinson, Chairman of the Windstream Board of Directors, said: “On behalf of the Board, I thank Jeff for his contributions to the company over the past decade. He led the company’s successful spinoff from Alltel Corp. and its transformation from a rural wireline telephone business to a FORTUNE 500 company and nationwide provider of advanced network communications and technology solutions. He also has served as a leading advocate for the telecom industry. Tony Thomas’ telecom experience and in-depth knowledge of Windstream give the Board confidence that he is the right executive to lead the company, position the enterprise and consumer businesses for long-term success and drive revenue growth.”

“I am honored by this appointment and by the Board’s confidence,” said Tony Thomas. “It has been a privilege to work with Jeff Gardner throughout my career. I also remain intently focused on executing the REIT spinoff, which will enable Windstream to accelerate network investments, provide enhanced services to customers and maximize shareholder value.”

Windstream Director Francis X. “Skip” Frantz will lead the process to select a new president and CEO of the REIT. As previously announced, Frantz will serve as chairman of the REIT’s Board. He will leave the Windstream Board upon close of the transaction, which is anticipated to occur in the first half of 2015.

About Tony Thomas

Tony Thomas, 43, has more than 20 years experience in the communications industry. He was instrumental in the development of Windstream’s REIT spinoff and has served as president of real estate investment trust operations at Windstream since October 2014.

Thomas served as the chief financial officer for Windstream from August 2009 through September 2014. During his five-year tenure as CFO, Thomas played an integral role in Windstream’s expansion by completing seven acquisitions totaling more than $5.6 billion in transaction value. In addition, Thomas has deep capital market expertise, having led almost $10 billion in debt transactions.

Thomas joined Windstream as controller following the spinoff from Alltel Corp. He held a variety of financial and operational leadership roles at Alltel after joining the company when it merged with 360 Communications in 1998. Before entering the communications industry, he was a senior auditor with Ernst & Young in the telecom practice. He holds a master’s degree in business administration from Wake Forest University and a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from the University of Illinois.